Enterprise mobile device strategies are experiencing enormous disruption thanks to staff insisting on using their own devices to access work systems and data as part of the the bring your own device (BYOD) trend.

Woman using iPhone

The BYO trend is here to stay, say analystsPhoto: lululemon athletica

Ovum reckons the BYOD trend is here to stay for the medium term at least as consumers have shown themselves willing to replace mobile kit faster than enterprises can afford to.

Ovum’s report, entitled The BYOD Gap: Trends, Strategy, and the State of Mobile Device Management, notes the role of the IT department is being reduced – handing control to employees who are bringing consumer kit to work, and forcing enterprises to rely on mobile device management (MDM) services to plug the gap and tackle device data security and management challenges.

“In the past, enterprises have driven adoption of the latest computing hardware, having been courted by device manufacturers and distributors for large-volume orders. However, the huge popularity of iOS and Android devices in consumer markets means enterprises are now having to respond to employee demand to use devices that the enterprise has no control over, to access corporate data and applications,” noted Richard Absalom, Ovum consumer impact IT analyst and author of the report, in a statement.

“This is shifting enterprises away from the traditional model of IT department control and forcing them to plug the gap with a BYOD strategy. With Apple and Android driving the BYOD trend, the individual employee will become an increasingly important primary device channel into the enterprise.”

As a result, MDM companies have been booming in the past 12 months, says Ovum – and they’re going to continue to clean up as it predicts the BYOD landscape will get increasingly complex.

Apple currently dominates the BYOD trend and this has made life “relatively easy” for enterprises to keep employee-owned devices secure, as Apple limits the release of new iOS devices to roughly yearly refreshes. But the analyst notes that the rise of Android and Microsoft’s push with Windows Phone will ramp up the complexity of BYOD – posing increased security problems thanks to an ever-increasing number of devices.

“This rate of innovation means MDM vendors are here to stay,” Absalom said. “It is unrealistic for most IT departments to keep up with every device, platform and API update needed to keep their data secure.”

In related news, analyst house Gartner has also been discussing the challenge presented by BYOD and says CIOs need to be ready to embrace…

…a range of flexible approaches to their mobile strategy.

“The landscape of devices and user needs is changing,” noted Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, in a statement. “CIOs are facing mass-mobility, and it is expected to grow rapidly.”

Gartner predicts sales of smartphones to end users will reach 461.5 million in 2011 – overtaking PC shipments – and rise to 645 million in 2012. Combined sales of smartphones and tablets will be 44 per cent greater than the PC market in 2011, according to the analyst.

“CIOs need to explore new ways to provide, fund and manage mobile devices to allow employees more choice and support BYO programmes,” added Nick Jones, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, in a statement.

“CIOs must be ready for the BYO programmes sooner than they realise. BYO is a principle that most organisations will adopt and organisations must prepare for this change.”

Gartner reckons a spectrum of at least four new mobile management styles will emerge as different groups of staff demand different approaches to mobile kit. These will range from a ‘control-oriented’ style, where the organisation still provides and manages devices, contracts and applications; all the way up to a ‘hands-off’ approach, where the organisation typically does not provide devices or apps and sanctions employees sourcing their own mobile devices, email and hosted services. Any controls required for this approach are then applied in the cloud, in apps or by policies.

Global businesses should be prepared to support at least three smartphone platforms by next year, according to Gartner, with some needing to support four or even five.

The analyst predicts Android will remain the number one smartphone platform for several years, with Apple’s iOS taking the number two position in 2012 until 2014. If the Nokia-Microsoft alliance executes well, the analyst says Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform should grow to take the number two position by 2015 – displacing iOS. BlackBerry maker RIM will move to the number four position in 2013.

“Regardless of your current approach, the reality is that consumerisation is here to stay and will have an enormous impact on the management of corporate mobility for many years to come,” added Milanesi.